Caribbean festival's return brings joy in wake of Hurricane Beryl

The sights and sounds of a Caribbean festival in downtown Montreal were met with both cheers and heavy hearts as people celebrated the return of Carimas, embracing the festive distraction in the wake of Hurricane Beryl's path of destruction.

Parade-goer Arnette Morgan says the hurricane has left her 84-year-old brother without a roof back in Jamaica and that she's been sending money home to help out.

"Otherwise, they're OK. They're alive, so we give thanks. There are many people who don't have nothing at all," she said.

The hurricane, now rumbling toward Texas, ripped through the Caribbean this week, causing at least 11 deaths in the region.

Eulyn Henry, from Grenada, said it was important for her to come out and express her culture joyfully despite everything. Like many members of the community, she's been raising funds and collecting items to send back home.

"Grenada is not really [that] devastated but Carriacou and Petite Martinique, they lost everything," she said. "It's important for [us] to keep our sanity and enjoy ourselves and have fun."

Saturday's parade, which took over a 1.7-kilometre stretch of René-Lévesque Boulevard, was the colourful conclusion to the month-long Carimas Festival organized by the Caribbean Coalition Network of Montréal.

The Carimas parade began at the intersection of René-Lévesque and St-Laurent boulevards and ended at Place du Canada where vendors showcased Caribbean goods and cuisine.
The Carimas parade began at the intersection of René-Lévesque and St-Laurent boulevards and ended at Place du Canada where vendors showcased Caribbean goods and cuisine. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

Previously known as Carifiesta, the parade has been running for 50 years, although it was cancelled in 2010 due to a conflict between two competing organizing committees. It was also halted for two years during the pandemic and again in 2023 due to complications around funding and permits.

Montreal-based DJ Cyrus Senior said he was happy to provide some tunes for the event this year.

"It hit the community hard when we heard [the festival] was gone, when it was taken away from us. So, having it back makes it feel good not to go to Toronto, not to go anywhere else," he said.

"We have something in our own city that we can celebrate that's ours."

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Darnelle Noel has been dancing in the parade since she was a kid and also said she was also happy to be back.

"It's important to show that we as a community, no matter the country, that we are here, that we can band together and enjoy life and show that we support people back home," said Noel.

Dressed from head to toe in Jamaica's green, yellow and black, Morgan shared the same sentiment.

"Out of many we are one," she said. "You can see that there's Grenada and Jamaica, St-Vincent, Barbados. Everybody's in the same group, so there's no separation."

"It's just one love," said Morgan, pointing to the words on her shirt before bursting out in laughter.